If you’ve somehow missed the story of the blogger who unpacked her luggage only to find a personalized TSA note referring to her battery-operated relaxation device, be sure to read Howard Portnoy’s coverage in the Green Room for a quick primer. Until today, the TSA had offered only passive denials to Jill Filipovic’s accusation, saying that they had “no evidence” that an agent had scrawled “Get your freak on girl” after finding a vibrator in her luggage during a security inspection. Today, the Washington Post reports that TSA must have found some evidence after all:
A Transportation Security Administration screener who wrote a personal message on the back of a formal inspection slip placed in a female passenger’s bag is no longer checking luggage, the agency said Wednesday. …
Amid media inquiries, TSA initially questioned the allegations, but Wednesday announced it had identified the employee responsible for the message.
“That individual was immediately removed from screening operations and appropriate disciplinary action has been initiated,” the agency saidin a message posted on its blog. “The handwritten note was highly inappropriate and unprofessional, and TSA has zero tolerance for this type of behavior,” the agency added.
The TSA claims it has apologized to Filipovic, who hasn’t noted that yet on her blog, although she is still traveling. TSA also refuses to say what disciplinary action it took with the agent involved. Why? Here’s a healthy dose of irony — they’re concerned about privacy for the employee, per federal personnel regulations.
It’s tough to buy that argument, however, for two reasons. First, the employee hasn’t been named, so privacy isn’t exactly an issue when revealing the disciplinary action taken. Second, and more importantly, federal employees are paid by taxpayers, and taxpayers have the right to demand some accountability — especially when the employee involved was abusing the privacy of a law-abiding traveler.
However, Filipovic reminds readers that the invasion of privacy should remain the point of this story, and not just the one-time abuse by a single person within the TSA but the systemic abuse of privacy we have created:
It’s easy to scape-goat one individual here, but the problem with the note is that it’s representative of the bigger privacy intrusions that the U.S. government, through the TSA and other sources, levels every day. The invasion is inherent to the TSA’s mission, regardless of whether a funny note is left behind — the note only serves to highlight the absurdity of all this security theater. … The note was inappropriate, the agent in question acted unprofessionally when s/he put in in my bag, there should be consequences and I’m glad the TSA takes these things seriously. But I get no satisfaction in hearing that someone may be in danger of losing their job over this. I would much prefer a look at why ‘security’ has been used to justify so many intrusions on our civil liberties, rather than fire a person who made a mistake.
This is exactly what we created when we decided that we couldn’t screen for actual threats, and instead had to do random screening based on nothing more than political correctness. Unless Filipovic demonstrated some observable indicators of a threat, the TSA agent shouldn’t have been in her bag in the first place. Until we come to grips with the fact that we’re not making travel safer through this “security theater,” as Filipovic calls it, except as an indirect result, we will continue to hear stories of absurd abuses by TSA for no good purpose at all.
[CIM Comment: Image added from original post]
Related link to the original story: TSA Sex Advice? Woman Finds ‘Freaky’ Note In Luggage